Our understanding of anarchy should by no means be limited to images of loonies going around, destroying anything and everything just as a way of exhibiting their anti authority stance. It goes deeper than that. Its foundation can usually be traced to the selfish actions of the authorities themselves, which often shows undisguised contempt for law and order, when it comes to these rules and laws being applied to their own behaviour. Anarchy results when the ruling authority uses it’s own hands to unravel the fabric which ought to hold society together by undermining sacred institutions of governance.
Anarchy doesn’t germinate in a vacuum. It breeds in the midst of confusion; when those expected to lead by example say one thing but do another. Human beings don’t just wake up one morning and decide for no just cause, to abandon order and pursue lawlessness. No, the root will reveal a ruling agent driven by his own selfish ends, who subsumes and breaks with reckless abandon the very laws he swore to uphold. Perhaps expectedly so, anarchy then spirals when the governed reels from the injustice of being subjected to a higher standard than and by the supposed rulers. Anarchy threatens when citizens lose faith in their government; when hope is replaced by utter hopelessness; when people perceive that some individuals are indeed more equal than others (à la George Orwell’s Animal Farm); when government fails in it’s primary objective to protect the lives and property of it’s people and the powerful human instinct to survive at almost any cost kicks in. Anarchy reigns when every man for all intent and purpose becomes a law unto himself; when the social contract which binds the government to fulfill its duty to those who voted it into power is breached, “publicly” torn up and abandoned. Many casualties tend to follow such circumstances but the first are usually law and order.
We greeted with elation some years ago, the appointment by the Biden administration of yet another “Nigerian”. Enoh Titilayo Ebong. The heart of Nigerians brimmed with pride as this Lagos bred lady was announced as the Acting Director of the US Trade and Development Agency. This appointment further affirmed Bidens’ claim of an inclusive administration; something he had promised during his campaign. This lady, along with several other Nigerians appointed into prominent positions in his government was selected because of her proven record. These “Nigerians” had proven over the years their worth and dedication to serve the country they call home. Their story aptly symbolizes the American dream – where everyone is given an opportunity (though not always equal) to make it, no matter their ethnicity, religion or social status. This ambition proudly places a premium on order; where progress is based on merit. Where you’re likely to get it if you deserve it. This speaks of what anarchy is not. Anarchy can be said to bestride a society when those who refuse to work honestly and assiduously, or invest the time to better themselves; or develop their craft, insist they have the same rights to breakthrough as those who do because there is a multitude of “leaders” they can point to who have! Anarchy will inevitably be found occupying the driving seat of a nation when appointments are not made on the basis of proven competence, commitment to the national cause or anything remotely noble like these but is driven purely by dangerously narrow parochial interests such as tribe, religion or political affiliation. What and where is the Nigerian dream, you may ask? A nation founded and subsequently driven by a national ethos, visibly ingrained in all its state institutions and their policies, will at any given time know where it wants to go and know if it’s heading in the right direction. When last did Nigerians living in Nigeria applaud and celebrate an appointment made in Nigeria for Nigeria? The lack of that has left us with little choice but to resort to eking out a modicum of “national” pride by vicariously owning appointments made of Nigerians living in the diaspora! How sad. By nature, it’s incumbent on man to seek solace and joy wherever he can, as failure to secure hope somewhere, will as the Good Book says, eventually dry the bones.
President Joe Biden showed his clear intent within a few days of being sworn in as President. Among many other Executive Orders that he signed was the Memorandum directing government agencies to make sure they mitigate perceived and actual racial bias in the Federal housing policies. This singular act amply demonstrated his intention to make all Americans, no matter their background, feel they have equal stake in the American project. In one swell swoop, he restored the faith of many in the American dream. He showcased inclusive and compassionate leadership, thereby renewing hope.
Though we should never allow ourselves to be led purely by what we see, we should never underestimate how much these things can influence us. Perception is crucial, which is why it’s often not enough for us to only do the right thing; we must be seen to be doing it. In the reverse, we should always be conscious of how our actions will be perceived even if our intentions are largely honourable. Our dear President has through a series of actions and vital inactions, sent what appears to be a consistent message, which people from different parts of the country have interpreted in ways that most makes sense to them. Unfortunately these “messages” have done nothing to ignite or rekindle hope for the majority of Nigerians. They’ve only sown even more seeds of despair. In governance, hiding behind legality only, may eventually prove to be disingenuous. As major arbiters of society’s moral standards, it behoves on all governments to weigh the moral soundness of their proposed actions.
Hope brings life, stirs the juices of creativity and rolls back the canopies of defeat to reveal endless possibilities. Life teeters perilously at the edge of losing its very definition when it is devoid of hope. Hope remains the very kernel of life and when well aligned with visible pointers to order such as merited reward, consequences for poor performance and penalties for bad behaviour, even the Phoenix burnt to ashes can rise up again. Our dear country needs hope derivable from order, now more than ever. Embers of hope longing to be fanned are noticeable in the ingenuity, industry, fortitude and indefatigable spirit of the over 200m Nigerians still residing in their home country; and of course we continue to glean signs of hope from the growing number of Nigerians whose brilliance and dedication have made them indispensable to their adopted nations. With the right leadership in place, a drastic reorientation of the people’s mindset, one day and against all current odds, this Phoenix called Nigeria will rise again.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time.